UPDATE: The case has gone to the jury for deliberation
HOT SPRINGS, Ark. – Day four of the Hot Springs trial of Kayvon Ward, who faces murder charges, is underway.
Ward is charged in the shooting death of officer Brent Scrimshire in a March 2020 incident. Day four began with the defense calling its final witness and ending its case. Prosecution rebuttal to the defense witnesses is underway.
In March 2020, Officer First Class Officer 1st Class Brent Scrimshire of Hot Springs Police was shot and killed following a traffic stop.
Kayvon Ward, 22, of Hot Springs, is on trial, charged in connection with capital murder, aggravated assault, possession of a defaced firearm and resisting arrest. He was driving the SUV Scrimshire stopped that night for running a stop sign.
Defense’s witness for day four was Ayanna Willams, who grew up with Ward.
“I tried to get in contact with him but I couldn’t. I just assumed he was doing his own thing,” she told the jury.
Defense has presented several witnesses who spoke about Ward’s being withdrawn, arguing that Ward was incapable of a premeditated act due to having schizophrenia.
Williams said Ward’s mother had reach out to her in 2019 with concern about her son’s behavior. She went to Ward’s mother’s house, Williams said.
“It took him [Ward] 45 minutes to open his [bedroom] door,” she told the jury.
After seeing Ward she went out to lunch with him, telling the jury: “I asked him ‘What’s going on?’” to which Ward replied “‘Everything’s fine,’” she said. “We still joked around and laughed, but there were times when his face was kind of blank,” Williams said.
The defense then rested its case.
The state called Lacey Willett, a psychologist with Arkansas State Hospital, having asked her to evaluate Ward in February 2021. Willett said she did not diagnose Ward with any kind of mental disability including schizophrenia.
“Honestly, it [a schizophrenia diagnosis] was not even on my radar,” Willett told the jury.
This was counter to a psychologist who testified for the defense earlier, who diagnosed Ward as schizophrenic.
Willett told the jury Ward admitted he had begun smoking marijuana at 10 to 12 years old and smoked it on and off until the March 2020 shooting.
In evaluating Ward she did not conduct any further tests for schizophrenia because of anything Ward said, she told the jury.
Update, 12 p.m.
Day four is becoming the day with the most heated back-and-forth between prosecution and defense.
Rachel Fazio, a clinical psychologist for the state and an independent practice took the stand for the prosecution. She had interviewed Ward March 26, 2020, 16 days after the Scrimshire shooting.
“It’s easier if you see their mental status at the time of the offense,” Fazio testified.
Fazio told the jury she did not diagnose Ward with any mental deficiency including schizophrenia. She had asked Ward if he had ever been seen for mental health issues.
“’I ain’t never been to no psychiatrist,’” Fazio said Ward replied to her.
“I didn’t see any signs or symptoms of mental health concerns,” Fazio told the jury, adding that she disagreed with the diagnosis of Benjamin Silber, who in day three testimony for the defense said he had diagnosed Ward as schizophrenic.
To Fazio’s admission that she spent 45 minutes with Ward over a single visit, defense attorney Alex A. Morphis asked her: “Is it fair to say you spent more time testifying today than meeting with Kayvon?”
“Correct,” Fazio replied.
What followed was back-and-forth between prosecution and defense as to Ward’s diagnosis.
Update 3:30 p.m.
Closing arguments are being made in the case; the State of Arkansas, the prosecution, has just closed its case.
Prosecution told the jury that Ward was guilty on all counts.
“He always says ‘I don’t know’ when confronted by evidence, he’s not credible” the jury was told.
The prosecutor continued, that Ward tried to flee, and resisted, because “He knew he had a warrant and didn’t want to go to jail.”
After showing the dash cam video from that night jurors were told, again, “Nothing the suspect [Ward] says is credible, nothing.”
The continued: “They [the officers] did everything non-lethal,” and “He decided to kill because he knew officers were going to arrest him.”
The prosecution discounted the defenses claims of Ward’s mental health issues, saying about Ward: “He brought a TASER to a gun fight.”
This story will be updated throughout the day.